Thursday, February 21, 2008

Presto Pesto!

I love pesto. It's one of the easiest things for me to make since the sauce does not require cooking. It is basically a bunch of fresh herb, nuts, and olive oil in a blender. Doesn't that just make it a liquid version of an herb salad? Though I did boil the linguine and make some turkey meatballs from scratch, so some cooking was involved. I had some leftover Asagio cheese spread that I decided to throw in. So I hit all four food groups with this one dish, that's always a plus.

Zesty Parsley-Walnut Pesto
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
5 tbsp Asagio cheese spread
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp roasted garlic
zest of 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt 'n Pepper to taste

Dump everything into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Also freezes beautifully. I divided up the pesto into individual portions and froze them in plastic containers, along w/ the turkey meatballs and some slightly under cooked linguine. Talk about creating your own TV dinners.

Turkey Meatballs
1 pound of ground turkey
1/4 cup fine bread/cracker crumbs
3 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 egg
2 tbsp olive oil

Blend the crumbs, garlic powder, dried parsley, salt and pepper in your handy dandy blender. In a med sized bowl, mix the turkey, egg, olive oil and crumb mixture together. Preheat oven to 350. Form meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 min, depending on how big you make your meatballs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Other than Pho???

Have you ever been hit with a double craving? It's hard for me to go to a pho place and order something other than pho. I'd go in craving something else on the menu, but as soon as I follow my nose thru that door, I'm also craving pho. I know that the true foodies out there understand my angst.
Well, one night, I was hit with a craving for Vermicelli w/ Grilled Pork and Fried Spring Rolls. It is a cold vermicelli salad with marinated grilled pork, shredded veggies, roasted peanuts, and cut up pieces of egg rolls (the good kind with meat, none of that fake cabbage-filled stuff). Oh, and the vinegar and nuoc mam based dressing. So I head over to Cao Dao for an order to go. As soon as I smelled the delicious aroma of the pho broth and saw everone in the restaurant slurping on their soups, I got hit with an instant craving for pho. But my craving for the vermicelli was still as strong as ever. There was no way I would be able to eat both. Each of these dishes are enough to fill me up.
The nice guy at the counter waited very patiently while I was sorting out my dilemma. I went back and forth and it went something like this:
...I have pho almost everytime I'm here, I should get my vermicelli.
...Everyone looks so happy with their soups, it smells sooo good
...mmm...grilled pork
...crispy, yummy spring rolls can get pho next time you're here...
...if you don't get the vermicelli now, you'll be craving it for the next 2 weeks

So I ended up getting the vermicelli. The nice server even offered me a seat at one of the few empty tables and brought me a glass of ice water w/ a slice of lime while I waited for my to-go order.
As soon as I got home, I tore into the takeout box and mixed up everything except for the spring rolls. The pork coulda used more charring, but was tender and savory. The lightness of the vermicelli, shredded veggies, and vinegar dressing balanced out the strong flavors of the pork. Roasted peanuts added a nice crunchy texture. The fried spring rolls/egg rolls were crispy and had a good amount of meat filling. It wasn't like mom's, but it satisfied my craving.

Green Eggs and Ham: Century Egg Lean Pork Jook

I remember when I first moved out of my parent's house, the first thing my mom asked me was if I wanted a rice cooker. I've compared notes with some of my friends and it seems that most Asian mothers feel that the rice cooker is the ultimate kitchen appliance, especially for their kids who don't know squat about cooking a decent meal. Of course, when I moved into the dorms, there was barely enough room for my printer. Since I learned how to make rice in the microwave, I told my mommy that I was doing fine without a rice cooker. It wasn't until I moved into an apartment and stole a small rice cooker from my parents pantry that I discovered how wrong I was to reject my mother's advice (yes, I bow my head in shame). I discovered that I could use it as a steamer and cook whole meals in it. I don't know how I could have lived so long without one of my own (though I also discovered that using the rice cooker for slow cooker recipes can be disasterous).
Today, I did my momma proud by making Century Egg and Lean Pork Porridge in the rice cooker. The flavor of the eggs are too overwhelming by itself, but the smooth consistency of the porridge mellows it out just perfectly. After a night of drinking, this hits the spot better than anything on the taco shop menu.

I like my porridge to have a "loose" soupy consistency, so I added boiling water to my bowl of porridge just before serving. Took me many trials and finally a call to my mommy helped me discover this secret: Don't add more water to the whole batch, the rice will just soak it all up and expand.

The "whites" of the preserved egg is a dark amber color, whilst the yolk is a greenish-gray (or grayish-green). I wonder if Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham were inspired by this traditional chinese dish. Hehehe. Here is the recipe for one of my all-time favorite breakfasts as a kid.

Century Egg Lean Pork Jook
1/3 cup uncooked rice
3 cups water
1/4 cup lean ground pork
2 century eggs, diced
boiling water or chicken broth (optional)
sesame oil (optional)
nuoc mam or salt to taste
white pepper (optional)

ginger, thinly sliced into matchsticks
minced scallions
yao ja gwa

Cook the rice and 3 cups of water in the rice cooker, leaving the lid propped up just a little. Let cook 15 minutes.
*You can also use a slow cooker, set on low.  The slow cooker will take longer to cook the rice.  Add 3 hours to cooking time if using a slow cooker.
Break up the ground pork and stir into the rice. Once rice is done cooking and pork is no longer pink, carefully fold the diced preserved eggs into the rice.  Scoop the porridge into a bowl, only filling the bowl up halfway. Add boiling water to the bowl of porridge until it has reached your desired consistency. Add fish sauce or salt to taste. Add a few drops of sesame oil and dashes of white pepper (black pepper is also fine, just doesn't look as pretty). Garnish with ginger and scallions. Serve with yao ja gwa.